Originally Published: Sunday, 21 May 2000 Author: Kristina Pfaff-Harris
Published to: interact_articles_jobs_djn/Dream Jobs Now! Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Interview Apparel Myths Continued

In some corporate cultures, how well you dress in an interview tells the interviewer much more about you than you'd think. In some businesses, wearing an executive suit, shined shoes and so forth is viewed as showing respect for the interviewer and the company, whether or not that's what you'll be wearing on the job.

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Last time we talked about the conventional wisdom that you must always wear a high-level executive suit for any job interview. This time, we'll discuss the other Myth that may cause you even more problems.

Myth #2: For any IT job interview, you can wear T-shirts, jeans, or whatever you like.

This one will get you into even more trouble than Myth #1. A few things are more or less universal: be clean and neat, preferably without holes in your clothing. Have your hair washed and combed, clean your fingernails, that sort of thing. Remember, though, there are IT jobs where the required dress is at least shirt and tie for males and dresses or slacks for females. You definitely don't want to show up for one of these interviews in your cut-off shorts and Reeboks.

Again, if you can do a little homework about the company, it will be of tremendous help. For financial and other conservative institutions, it's probably good to wear that suit. In some corporate cultures, how well you dress in an interview tells the interviewer much more about you than you'd think. In some businesses, wearing an executive suit, shined shoes and so forth is viewed as showing respect for the interviewer and the company, whether or not that's what you'll be wearing on the job. Sometimes, many things are implied by your dress. For example, if your shoes are shined, your suit is unwrinkled, and your hair is neat, this can imply that you show attention to detail and are ready for success. Some interviewers even make initial decisions on your education, intelligence, and qualifications simply based on the quality of your interview wear. This is quite a foreign concept for those of us who do not look at things quite that way, but it needs to be understood.

At this point, I should probably point out that forcing your own view on what's appropriate is not necessarily going to win you any points. Sure, you may feel that it's what's on the inside that counts -- your skills, your qualifications, your intelligence -- and not what you wear. Therefore, you may think, you'll wear whatever the heck you feel comfortable in, and if they don't like it, too bad! In my view, this isn't necessarily a bad attitude if you're searching for your dream job and are not willing to settle for anything less. After all, if you want to work for a company who will accept your jeans and t-shirts because it's your skills that are important, then you don't necessarily want to work for a company with a suit-and-tie dress code. Try to remember, however, that your initial interview may be with a Human Resources person or Recruiter of some kind, and NOT with the head of the department where you'll be working. I've found that sometimes it's best to wear a suit for the suits, and jeans for the actual technical people you'll be working with. In other words, put on the right packaging for the appropriate audience.

Given that part of finding your dream job is finding jobs in places where the culture is harmonious to you, you may choose to ONLY apply for jobs where suits are expected, or to NEVER apply for jobs in such environments. I often think of interview (and, once on the job, presentation) attire as more like a costume, and of myself as playing a role. Today, I think, I am playing the role of "Potential Sys Admin for Wall Street Brokerage," or "Sys Admin in Blue T-Shirt," or even "Techie Disguised as Executive to Fool the Interviewers." This lets me think of it more as a disguise to infiltrate where I want to be than of pretending to be something I'm not to suck up to someone. Honestly, it's almost the same thing, but the disguise idea is much more fun.

I recently heard what I thought to be an excellent piece of advice on interview wear. Put simply, "Dress like the department head." In an academic environment, this might be the department Chair, or Dean. In a business environment, this might be the IT manager or, in a smaller company, the Chief Technical Officer. If you can find out how these people dress, wearing similar attire (whether suit or jeans and sweater) can both show respect for their cultural mores of dress and present a positive impression of you fitting in to the environment.

Just remember: as with Perl, "There's more than one way to do it." Part of successful job searching is knowing what you're looking for, and to some extent, knowing what the employer is looking for as well.





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